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Verizon challenges FCC Net neutrality rules

By Laurie Segall, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Verizon filed a legal appeal on Thursday challenging the Federal Communications Commission's authority to enforce the new Net neutrality rules it adopted last month.

"We believe this assertion of authority goes well beyond any authority provided by Congress, and creates uncertainty for the communications industry, innovators, investors and consumers," Verizon senior vice president and deputy general counsel Michael E. Glover said in a written statement

On December 21, the FCC's commissioners voted three-to-two to adopt so-called "Net neutrality" rules, which would give the agency regulatory power over Internet service providers. The agency's goal is to prevent Internet providers from blocking or "unreasonably discriminating" against Web content, services or applications.

But the FCC's legal grounds for expanding its authority is shaky, and industry observers predicted that Internet providers would take the issue to court.

"Undoubtedly, there's going to be litigation against it," Rebecca Tushnet, a professor at Georgetown University who specializes in digital media, said at the time.

Enter Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500). The company was already in the thick of the Net neutrality fight after striking a backroom deal with Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) last year that it hoped would head off new FCC rules. It didn't.

The FCC has been through the legal wringer several times in its attempts to police Internet providers.

In 2007, Comcast -- the nation's largest Internet provider -- blocked its subscribers from using peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. The FCC tried to force Comcast to stop, and Comcast fought back with a lawsuit challenging the FCC's authority in the matter. In April 2010, a U.S. court of appeals ruled in Comcast's favor.

So the FCC went back to the drawing board, and adopted a new set of rules last month, based on a fresh legal theory about the scope of its powers.

Verizon isn't impressed.

"Today's filing is the result of a careful review of the FCC's order," Glover said. "We are deeply concerned by the FCC's assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself."

Net neutrality advocates were quick to strike back.

Jay Schwartzman, policy director for the nonprofit advocacy group Media Access Project, accused Verizon of venue-shopping for a friendly court. Verizon, based in New York, filed its appeal in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

"Verizon has made a blatant attempt to locate its challenge in a favorable appeals court forum," he said in a written statement. "Under this bizarre legal theory, virtually every FCC decision would wind up in one court."  To top of page

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